TimberWest Class Action FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about the proposed settlement

This document is prepared in plain language to answer the questions we expect to receive from eligible class members and their advisors about the Preliminary Notice of settlement delivered to potential class members on or about May 8, 2015.

While we have endeavoured to answer the questions and summarize the terms of the Settlement Agreement accurately, this is not legal advice to anyone.

The terms of the Settlement Agreement will govern if there is any inconsistency with this document.

Why did I receive a Preliminary Notice?

You received a Preliminary Notice because you have been identified by Timberwest as being eligible to be a class member in a class action lawsuit.

Who is eligible to be a class member?

You are eligible to be a class member if you were covered by TimberWest’s plan of post-retirement health and welfare benefits on either or both of September 1, 2009 or May 1, 2010. (Those were the dates on which TimberWest reduced benefits under the plan).

The plan covered retired former salaried, non-union employees of TimberWest and its predecessors and also their spouses and dependants.

If an eligible class member died on or after September 1, 2009 that person’s estate is an eligible class member.

But I (or my Spouse) retired from employment with a predecessor of TimberWest. Why did I receive a Notice?

Through a series of corporate transactions, Timberwest acquired several predecessor companies following which the retired former employees of those companies received post-retirement health and welfare benefits under TimberWest’s plan. Because your post-retirement health and welfare benefits are now provided by Timberwest, you are an eligible class member.

I received a Notice addressed to someone who has passed away. Do I need to do anything?

Please forward the Notice to the estate administrator.

The estate of the deceased is eligible to be a class member and must be provided with notice in accordance with the order of the Court. As the settlement offers no retroactive benefits, the estate of the deceased is not entitled to any benefit under the settlement agreement; however, the settlement does affect the deceased’s legal rights.

I did not receive a Notice, even though I am an eligible class member as described above. Why? How can I get a Notice?

If you did not receive a Notice, it is because Timberwest’s records do not show you are an eligible class member as described above.

If you believe you should have received a Notice, please contact Class Counsel at the contact information below. Class Counsel will ask you some questions to determine whether or not you are eligible to be a settlement class member before sending you the Preliminary Notice.

What is the lawsuit about?

On September 1, 2009 and again on May 1, 2010, Timberwest reduced the post-retirement health and welfare benefits that Timberwest provided to its salaried, non-union retirees. In the lawsuit the plaintiff, George Jablonsky, alleges on behalf of the class that Timberwest was not entitled to reduce those benefits and asks the Court to order the benefits be restored to pre-reduction levels.

Timberwest denies these allegations and denies any wrongdoing or liability. The Court has not taken any position as to the truth or merit of the claims or defences asserted by either side.

What happened in the lawsuit?

Even though the lawsuit has not yet been certified as a class action and there has not been any decision by the Court on the merits of any claim or defence made in the lawsuit, the parties agreed to settle the lawsuit. The settlement will not be effective unless it is approved by the Court. No further steps are being taken in the lawsuit until the proceedings to approve the settlement are concluded.

What happens next?

Because this is a class action, the settlement agreement must be approved by the Court. The approval hearing is currently scheduled for hearing in Vancouver on June 26, 2015. As stated in the Preliminary Notice, anyone eligible to be a class member may attend that hearing.

If the Court approves the settlement agreement, Class Counsel will send an Approval Notice to all persons eligible to be class members. At that time, British Columbia residents will have the option of opting out of the class action and non-British Columbia residents will have the option of opting into the class action.

One of the terms of the settlement is that if a significant number of persons eligible to be class members opt out of the class action, TimberWest has the right to terminate the settlement agreement and the lawsuit may then resume.

If TimberWest does not terminate the settlement agreement, the settlement agreement is final, the terms of the settlement will be implemented and the lawsuit will end.

If either the Court declines to approve the settlement agreement or TimberWest terminates it, the lawsuit may continue as though there had been no settlement.

What are the terms of the settlement?

The parties are working to implement the settlement on January 1, 2016, which is the assumed implementation date for the revised benefit plan described in the settlement.

Health and Welfare and Dental Benefits

TimberWest will continue the post-retirement health and welfare plan (including dental) as it currently exists except as set out below.

TimberWest may not reduce the post-retirement health and welfare benefits in any way until January 1, 2018.

On January 1, 2018 and any January 1 after that, TimberWest may reduce health and welfare and dental benefits only to a point that keeps its expenditures below a cap. The cap for these benefits increases at 5% per year per plan member. As long as the per person plan cost for these benefits remains below the cap, TimberWest may not reduce health and welfare or dental benefits. If the per person plan cost for these benefits rises above the cap,

TimberWest may, at its option, reduce benefits so that costs do not exceed the cap. The settlement also requires TimberWest to improve any benefits that have been reduced if the per capita plan cost falls below 95% of the cap in any of the five years following a reduction. Benefits would be fully restored if the cost of doing so would not exceed the cap. If full restoration would exceed the cap, then benefits must be improved so that per capita plan spending is at the cap level.

Medical Services Plan

For retirees who retired prior to 1990, and their Spouses and dependants, TimberWest will pay the entire cost of Medical Services Plan premiums.

For retirees who retired after 1989, their spouses and dependants, TimberWest will cease paying 50% of Medical Services Plan premiums. However, a different benefit that is likely to be more valuable to those covered has been included in place of MSP premium payment. TimberWest will set up a health care spending account “HCSA” for each retiree or family. See below for further information about the HCSA.

Will I receive anything for my losses from the date of the first reduction to January 1, 2016?

No. The settlement agreement does not provide for any retroactive payments or adjustments. 

(Post-1989 retirees and families only) What is a Health Care Spending Account (“HCSA”)?

A health care spending account (“HCSA”, sometimes called a health savings account or “HSA”) is a fund of money that you can use for any eligible medical expense.

When you incur an eligible medical expense, you can submit your receipts to the insurer and the expense will be reimbursed up to the amount in your HCSA.

Starting in 2016, your account will be credited with a defined amount each year. In 2016 you will be allocated $900 for a single member, $1,600 for a couple and $1,800 for a family; in 2017 and each year thereafter the allocated amount will increase by 1% annually.

It is important to understand that you had to pay tax on the amount TimberWest paid to you for MSP coverage. You will not pay any tax on benefits covered by the HCSA.

If you do not claim all your year’s allocation in that year the unused credit carries over to the next calendar year and is added to the allocation for that following year. If your claims are so low in the following year you do not claim all the carried forward amount the remainder does not carry forward into the third year.

Example:
Year 1: You are allocated $1600 at the start of year one but claim only $600 in that year.
Year 2: You carry forward $1000 and are allocated a further $1616 at the start of Year 2. Your total fund available for HCSA claims is now $2616. Again, you claim only $600 in Year 2 leaving $400 allocated the at the beginning of Year 1 unclaimed. But you also have the $1616 allocated for Year 2 unspent.
Year 3: The $400 left over from the Year 1 allocation is forfeited. You carry forward the $1616 allocated in Year 2, and are allocated a further $1632. Your fund available for claims at the beginning of the year is $3248.

(Post-1989 retirees and families only) What are eligible medical expenses that I can claim from my HCSA?

Any medical expense that can be claimed as a Medical Expense Tax Credit may be claimed from your HCSA. This includes charges for prescription drugs, paramedical expenses, prescription eyeglasses, dental expenses, hearing aids and other medical devices, certain renovations to your home or driveway necessitated by impaired mobility and other similar health-related charges.

You can use your HCSA to cover any deductibles or co-pays under your health and welfare plan. For example, your health and welfare plan covers 80% of the first $3,000 of your prescription costs. If your prescription costs $100, you would be responsible for $20 and the extended health benefit under the plan would pay $80. You could then claim the $20 co-pay from your HCSA.

Out-of-province travel medical insurance (but not trip cancellation or other types of travel insurance) is also an eligible medical expense.

A full list of eligible expenses is available at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/tchncl/ncmtx/fls/s1/f1/s1-f1-c1-eng.html#N10DD5.

(Post-1989 retirees and families only) Can I use my HCSA money to pay for my Medical Services Plan premiums?

No. MSP premiums are not eligible medical expenses under the Income Tax Act.

(Post-1989 retirees and families only) How do I make claims from the HCSA?

You will receive more information about your HCSA, including the claims process, near the end of 2015 in preparation for January 1, 2016.

(Post-1989 retirees and families only) Are there any advantages to the proposed HCSA over TimberWest continuing to pay some of my MSP premiums?

The TimberWest plan is now paying only 50% of your 2010 MSP premium amount. The first year HCSA allocation amount is slightly more than 100% of the present MSP amount (and increases at 1% per year).

In addition, TimberWest’s contributions to MSP premiums were taxable. If your marginal tax rate was 20%, for every $100 paid to you by Timberwest for MSP premiums you had to pay $20 in tax. When you make a valid claim for a $100 medical expense from your HCSA, the whole amount is paid to you and you do not pay any tax on that amount.

Will participating in the class action and settlement cost me anything?

No. Class counsel’s fees are being paid by TimberWest as part of the settlement.

How do I participate in the class action and settlement?

If you live in British Columbia, you do not have to do anything. You are automatically a class member unless you take specific steps to opt out.

If you live outside British Columbia, you must opt in. In approximately early July, you will receive a Notice informing you of your right to opt in. You must fill out the form and return it by the deadline indicated on the Notice.

What if I do not want to participate in the class action and settlement?

If you live in British Columbia, you must take steps to opt out. In approximately early July, you will receive a Notice informing you of your right to opt out. You must fill out the form and return it to Class Counsel by the deadline stated on the Notice.

If you live outside British Columbia, you do not have to do anything. You are not a class member unless you take specific steps to opt in.

What are the consequences of not participating in the class action and settlement?

If you do not participate in the class action you will not receive the benefits of the settlement. TimberWest could change, reduce or eliminate your health and welfare benefits.

If too many people opt out of the settlement agreement, TimberWest could choose to terminate the settlement.

I have moved / will be moving. Do I need to do anything?

Please telephone, email or write to Class Counsel to advise of your new contact information.

Where can I get more information?

A number of documents, including all pleadings filed in the lawsuit and the settlement agreement, are available at http://www.vslo.ca/services/class-actions/TimberWestclassaction/.

If you cannot access the documents on the website, or if you still have questions, please contact the lawyers for the settlement class:

Allison Tremblay or David Blair
Victory Square Law Office LLP
Barristers & Solicitors
500 – 128 West Pender Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 1R8
Telephone: 604-684-8421
Facsimile: 604-684-8427
Email: TimberWestclassaction@vslo.ca